Classification review rejects push to ban Gender Queer book

Conservative activist Bernard Gaynor wants Australian Classficiation Review board to ban book Gender Queer
Images: Supplied, Sky News Australia (right)

Australia’s Classification Review Board has rejected a push to censor gender and sexuality memoir Gender Queer on appeal after a right-wing activist demanded it be banned.

Gender Queer: A Memoir (above) is a 2019 graphic novel by American non-binary author Maia Kobabe.

Aimed at teenage readers, the memoir retells the author’s journey of sexual and gender identity.

The book has won literary awards. But the American Library Association says it’s the “most banned” book because of its depictions of sex and sexuality.

In March, Queensland conservative campaigner Bernard Gaynor complained to Logan City Council that Gender Queer was on its shelves.

Gaynor described the graphic novel as “highly pornographic” and also claimed it contained child exploitation material.

At the time, the library pulled the book. Gaynor complained to Queensland Police and the Australian Classification Board (ACB).

But in early April, the ACB made its decision. The ACB gave Gender Queer an “unrestricted classification” but with “consumer advice” of “M (Mature) — Not Recommended for Readers Under 15 Years”. The ACB said the “M” advice was not a legal restriction on the book’s sale or availability.

Classification Review Board upholds decision

Bernard Gaynor then appealed to the Classification Review Board. The Review Board is an independent body that is able to overturn the ACB’s original decision.

But on Thursday, the review board announced it had upheld the “unrestricted” classification and “M (Mature)” advisory.

“In the Review Board’s opinion, Gender Queer warrants an Unrestricted classification because the content of the publication is justified in context,” the Board explained.

“[It] is appropriate for its intended audience of people who are interested in the author or interested in the subjects of gender identity and asexuality.

“[Gender Queer] has a positive tone and character as well as many layers of positive messaging.”

The Review Board added it “found that the publication’s depictions of sex and nudity were justified in the context of a non-fiction memoir describing the author’s lived experience.”

“Also, in the Review Board’s opinion, consumer advice of ‘M – Not recommended for readers under 15 years’ is warranted as some content within the publication may offend some sections of the adult community, and may not be suitable for younger readers.

“Therefore, the publication is not recommended for readers under fifteen years of age.”

Gender Queer books for sale at Kinokuniya bookstore in Sydney
Image: courtesy of Kinokuniya Sydney

Bookstore says Gender Queer decision ‘small win in the culture war’

Bookstore Kinokuniya Sydney imports the American book to Australia. In the classification row, the bookstore paid the Classification Board’s fee for the first review earlier this year.

This week, Kinokuniya welcomed the Classification Review Board upholding the “unrestricted” classification.

Gender Queer will remain on our shelves – and library shelves throughout the country,” the bookstore said in a blog post.

The bookstore also thanked those who supported the book in numerous submissions to the Review Board.

“Our sincerest thanks go to all those who shared our posts about Gender Queer’s journey through the Classification system,” Kinokuniya said.

“It’s a small win in the culture war with those who seek to restrict what others are allowed to read.

“But it feels like an important one for all of us, especially the LGBTQIA+ community.”

In 2013, the Australian Defence Force sacked Bernard Gaynor as a reservist after he made anti-gay comments on social media.

At the time, Katter’s Australia Party also dumped Gaynor as a Queensland Senate candidate over the comments.

Read next: A homophobic petition is targeting Gold Coast library books

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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